Life is full of lessons, some big, some small. This past long weekend we managed to scoot away for a couple days for ourselves and on the agenda was a trip to the Rancho Sisquoc Winery. I have wanted to go here for years as I am in love with their Chardonnay ($15.99 @ Whole Foods and $20 @ the winery). My first introduction to Rancho Sisquoc was actually their Pinot Noir of some year that eludes me now.
After investigating it turns out that Rancho Sisquoc is quite a bit east of the 101 in an area called the Foxen Valley Wine Trail. We left the 101 in the rain and meandered down the small one lane roads past fields of broccoli and cauliflower until it gave way to vineyards. Miles and miles of vineyards. The first winery we stumbled upon was the Cambria Winery. Cambria winery is quite a distance from Cambria the town but the two have much in common. Friendly people, good music and good wine. It turns out they had a fellow (Ray, local boy) their playing acoustic guitar who was great, it was a real party atmosphere with huge 3 oz pours. I highly recommend stopping here if you get a chance as the staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and with a nice depth in their tasting menu. We walked away with some of their Chardonnay (always a favorite of mine) and an incredible bottle of their Clone 23 Pinot Noir.
As we continued down the trail my excitement grew - at last, Rancho Sisquoc. The place was crowded with people 3 rows deep at the tasting area. $8 for tasting with no free tasting if you buy anything. I was highly disappointed in the entire experience. The staff was cranky and just poured with wine with no explanation or help. You picked 11 from their tasting menu and you could do it however you wanted. I suppose choice is not a bad thing but a little kindness goes a long way. Of the 11 wines I only liked two, one was my stand by - the Chardonnay and the other was a Meritage. Frankly, I probably only really bought the Meritage because I wanted to love it..... Did I set myself up for disappointment by expecting too much? Isn't that what "looking forward" to something is all about?
We shrugged off this disappointment and followed our new friends (Francis and Rick) to their favorite winery - Foxen Vineyards. Foxen vineyards blew me away. Perhaps a pleasant surprise is better than having your expectations met? Their wine is not cheap, frankly none of the vineyards we visited were even close to reasonable in price - but generally speaking Foxen was great. We walked away with a four pack and that's only because we were being frugal. Don't miss this area for tasting next time you're in Santa Barbara or Santa Maria - you'll be pleasantly surprised.